Why don’t people buy books about Jesus anymore?

Tim Chester | November 7th 2017

I love writing advent books. The One True Gift is my third in three years. I’d happily go on writing them if they would let me. But they won’t. Apparently it’s someone else’s turn. I know, crazy!

‘But why do you love writing advent books, Tim?’ I hear you say.

I’ll come to that in a moment.

But first let me talk about a strange phenomenon in Christian publishing: people don’t buy books about Jesus. Think about it. When was the last time you read a book about Jesus? Can you even name a book about Jesus? There are some academic books on the doctrine of Christ. But few books written about Christ for Christians.

There is nothing more practical than knowing, loving and trusting Jesus.

It didn’t used to be like this. The person of Christ was a favourite topic for Puritan writers. John Flavel wrote Christ, the Fountain of Life. John Owen wrote The Glory of Christ. Isaac Ambrose wrote Looking unto Jesus. You get the idea.

Perhaps our neglect of Jesus is because we assume we already know about him. ‘I learnt about Jesus in Sunday school.’ Heard it; done it; move on. Or perhaps it’s because today we want our books to ‘do’ something for us. We want a book on prayer so we can ‘do’ prayer. We want a book on the family so we can ‘do’ parenting. We want a book on the church so we can ‘do’ church. We want a book on Jesus so … What would a book on Jesus ‘do’ for you?

But there is nothing more practical than knowing, loving and trusting Jesus.

In his book The Supremacy of God in Preaching, John Piper tells how one Sunday he preached on the holiness of God from Isaiah 6, trying as best he could ‘to display the majesty and glory of such a great and holy God.’ What he didn’t know was that in the congregation was a young family who had just discovered that their child had been sexually abused by a close relative. Later the father told Piper, ‘John, these have been the hardest months of our lives. Do you know what has gotten me through? The vision of the greatness of God’s holiness that you gave me the first week of January. It has been the rock we could stand on.’

Seeing the glory and grace of God in the person and work of Jesus – this is the most practical thing we can do if we want to live life well.

The One True Gift is a meditation on Paul’s wonderful hymn of Christ in Philippians 2:6-11. And that surely is reason enough to read it. But in Philippians 2 that hymn is topped and tailed by exhortations to serve the interests of others and do everything without complaining. Seeing the glory and grace of God in the person and work of Jesus radically transforms our attitude to others. And, with all the pressures that the Christmas season brings, that is worth doing.

Which brings me back to why I love writing advent books. Advent books are really just an excuse to talk about Jesus.

Tim Chester

Tim Chester is a pastor at Grace Church, Boroughbridge, UK; a faculty member of Crosslands Training; and is the author of over 30 books. He has a PhD in theology and was previously Research and Policy Director for Tearfund UK. He has been an adjunct lecturer in missiology and reformed spirituality. Tim is married to Helen and has two daughters.

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